Labour bares election teeth to loansharks and predatory lenders
Labour's election manifesto ‘A Future Fair For All' set out their plans for bank reform, tackling financial exclusion and providing affordable financial services to all. We in the Better Banking campaign are delighted to see their pledge to ‘clamp down on the interest rates and other fees charged by....payday or doorstep lenders'. The commitment to take action on extortionate charges for loans to poor people (who do, contrary to popular banking-myth, regularly repay their debts, despite the eye-watering costs!) is one of the campaign's four proposals. There's also a commitment to ‘crackdown' on unfair terms in financial services and a stronger role for the FSA to oversee this.
Despite Ed Miliband's recent commitment to tackle high-cost credit, the signs were that Labour were shying away from a ‘credit cap' to limit the amount that predatory lenders could charge for loans. How nice, for once, to have your expectations exceed by politicians!
Together with the recent proposals announced in the Budget and proposals to deliver financial services through the Post Office, all four of the Better Banking Coalition's proposals are now (more or less) included in Labour's manifesto.
Labour have said they will:
- Find ways to increase the contribution banks make to support community lenders, such as credit unions and Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) through regulation and taxes.
- Require banks to publish information about who they are providing services to (geographic and demographic)
- Clamp down on high cost credit charges
In practice this could easily mean; a Community Reinvestment Act, a levy on bank profits, a credit cap and transparency over financial service provision.
Of course, the commitments are to ‘find ways', not to go ahead and actually do it. So even if Labour wins the election, we will need to work hard to ensure that these commitments are not diluted by those who oppose genuine bank reform. But the aim is clear and the commitment to achieve what we want to see is unambiguous. And anyway, we've got to be pragmatic... if there's another, better, way to achieve our goals, then that's fine. It's about the outcome, not how we get there.
And that's probably as good (if not better) than we could have hoped for.